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The Evolution of United Nations Peacekeeping, 28 Cornell International Law Journal 631 (1995)


Does multilateralism deserve moral suspicion? It is a well-put question, worth facing prior to our inquiry into peacekeeping. Some of the classical conditions of peacekeeping will be newly explicable; the classical limits to peacekeeping fit these moral concerns.

Traditionally, multilateralism has been challenged as a road to lassitude, inaction and self-defeat. The suggestion here is different. Professor Fernando Tesón has argued that multilateralism may fall prey to the moral short-sightedness of a purely self-regarding decision. Indeed, in international law circles, an enthusiasm for multilateralism sometimes brings a suspension of judgment. Even international lawyers who admit the deep interweaving of law and morality, drift towards a "multilateral positivism"—the presumption that if a decision is reached multilaterally, it can't be wrong. The Security Council, in this view, becomes a lawmaking institution; its actions create new norms eo ipso. The Security Council is its own law and sets its own principles. The ordinary inquiry appropriate to the intervention of one country into another country's affairs, a skepticism or burden of persuasion for unilateral intervention, turns to credulity if the action is multilateral.

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